Plan for the day
The past two weeks, since my last sail, have been spent making a
couple of needed additions to Lazy Ka. The first is a Vang: Lazy Ka
was not equipped with this necessary piece of rigging. Former
owners of Lazy Ka were fresh-water lake sailors, and a Vang was likely not deemed a
necessary requirement. But last year I quickly learned the importance
of a Vang when subjected to strong winds. I had experienced a couple of
unintended jibes where the boom lifted almost parallel to the mast,
then came crashing down uncontrollably. The force of the falling boom
could be very dangerous. The obvious solution to the problem is a Boom
Vang. Need number two, a real Tillerlock . . . the bungee chord
approach that I was using was not doing the job. I couldn't leave the
helm for more than
few seconds at a time. Not enough time to accomplish much of anything.
It has been said that the student sailor could not find a better
classroom than San Francisco Bay on which to hone ones skills. Today's
outing managed to bring this concept home to me in Spades!
bay seemed to throw all she had at Lazy Ka and me, and we responded as
best we could, with me learning much along the way.
I wanted for a big day of sailing, so I left the house
early; I managed to get Lazy Ka rigged in record time, which put me on
the Estuary, under overcast skies, earlier that usual. I maneuvered
around the morning crew races that run out of the Jack London Aquatic
Center, and headed out the Estuary for the bay. As I neared the West
end of Alameda Island,
the overcast began to burn off revealing the forecast blue skies.
My plan was to sail out the Estuary on
the tide and return likewise in the late afternoon.
was at the entrance to the Estuary that I decided to adjust my plan
for the day; I could see much sailing activity west of Alcatraz and
beyond in Richardson Bay off Sausalito. With daylight savings early
this year, I had plenty of daylight to see me to Sausalito and back to
Grand Street before dark.
into the central bay
Under full sail I headed for the South side of Yerba Buena Island
for a photo run past the
Yerba Buena Light, then on under the
Bay Bridge for Alcatraz. Along the way I crossed the course of of
Coast Guard just west of Treasure Island, and made for
Alcatraz. Entering the central bay where the relative protection of
Francisco hills and the Northern peninsula makes for
building winds; the
comfort of 10 knots gave way to near 20 as I
Alcatraz for more pictures.
briefly into the shelter of the East side of the island for a closer
look at the buildings and other sailors rounding the island as well.
It was here that I happened onto a photo op
on a passing
Cal-42, Irish Lady, with Spinnaker flying in all it's glory. After
returning home, I wanted
to send my photos
to the Skipper under the presumption
Skipper can have
enough pictures of his boat under
sleuthing took me
http://www.irishladyracing.com/ for the whole story. Turns out
Irish Lady placed third (Division B,) in last year's coveted Pacific
Cup (2006) race from San Francisco to Hawaii . . . I was in the
presence of royalty.
Then it was back around South Alcatraz, and into the blow once more.
My passage West of Alcatraz took me between the island and the finish
line for races of the day. I could see the boats letting spinnakers
fly as they turned the final leg in the distance somewhere near the
Golden Gate Bridge. I managed to turn to my camera long enough to get
off a few snapshots of the spectacle. I was under sufficient control
be able to eat my picnic lunch while sailing this leg of my crossing.
What fun this was!!! . . . seriously, I was really enjoying high winds
for the first time. I had successfully managed winds in excess of 20
knots a half dozen times
or more last season; I always got back dry and in one piece. But I was
never really comfortable sailing in such conditions. I felt competent,
but not totally comfortable. Well today, all that changed. After
almost five months down-time, all that I had learned last year came
immediately back to me. With Lazy Ka healing at a consistent 10-15
degrees, traveling her maximum 5 knot hull-speed (my best guess,) and
me hanging on for dear life, it was exhilarating. The Vang was in
play, giving me the added sail control that had been missing in the
past. I truly felt a sense of control, the absence of which was the
root of my past discomfort. It was a great feeling to have reached
Continuing my crossing to the North-West of Alcatraz toward
Sausalito and Richardson Bay, I estimated the winds to be 22-27 knots
by the Beaufort Scale. Monday,
I confirmed 25 knots online. My wind estimating skill seems to be
improving as well. In the distance,
I could see
the calmer waters of the entrance to Richardson Bay, sheltered by the
of the Marin Headlands. Well into the bay's entrance,
I spotted a significant disturbance on the water ahead that seemed to
come from air flowing down the Eastern slop of the Marin hills, and
striking the water's surface. I read this to be turbulence best
avoided, and turned further out into central Richardson Bay before
cutting back toward the Sausalito waterfront.
made a photo pass on the prominent Sausalito landmark, the Horizons
Restaurant. The building, the former home to a restaurant venture by
the Kingston Trio (c. 1965 to 1979) as the Trident, was originally
built as the
San Francisco Yacht Club, the oldest such club on the West Coast.
Then, hugging the Sausalito waterfront, I proceeded until blocked by
the ferry terminal, where I turned to starboard and into central
Richardson Bay to enjoy the view of Mt. Tamalpais and the numerous
vessels anchored mid-bay.
Back into the
blow once more
Noting that it was now getting close to 3:00 PM, I decided it best
to head back into the bay on a return course that would take me West
of Angel Island, East of Alcatraz, and again along Western Treasure
Island and Yerba Buena. Now to starboard was the Golden Gate Bridge,
in the afternoon fog that was beginning to roll into the bay. I
dreaded the thought of getting caught out too late in the cool,
sometimes bitter-cold, of an evening fog. I really dislike sailing
when I'm cold. Though I carry appropriate dress for all conditions, I
don't relish needing to bundle up.
Coming out again from behind the protection of the Marin hills, found
the wind was still blowing in excess of 20 knots--later confirmed in
the neighborhood of 22-24 knots. The big boys were still at it. In
evidence, I offer this snapshot of a classic schooner, with Camp
Reynolds, Angel Island, as a backdrop.
One becomes accustomed to the sounds of the vessel under sail; the
normal sounds that let the skipper know that all is OK. This allows
for time to enjoy the scenery and relative quiet of letting nature move you
over the water. Then there are the sounds that snap you back to the
duties of command from your surrounds. So it was that snapped me back
from enjoying the view of west Angel Island. The "snap" was the sound
of my forestay letting go! For most Potters, this would spell
disaster; being out
in a 25 knot blow with nothing to secure the mast. In my case, I have
backup redundancy, twice times. I had both of my headsails in
place. And both sails contain a luff-wire that are each strong enough
to provide forestay support, but considering the conditions that I was
sailing in, I had concerns. So heeding caution, I decided it best to
seek a protected inlet to allow me to secure the forestay.
this point my photos run out. In other words, I was otherwise
occupied, and didn't have the luxury of attending to my camera for
The nearest safe
haven was Ayala Cove, Angel Island, some two miles East. This also
would allow me to keep the wind at my back and tension on the shrouds
along the way. I headed toward Raccoon Straight and was making headway
relative to landmarks on shore. In fact, I was making better headway
than a couple of the larger boats around. But this was short lived. At
some point I realized that I wasn't making much headway at all . . .
Slap me in the forehead (kind of a "I could have had a V-8" snap back
. . . there is one heck of a strong current flowing out through the
Strait, like almost all the runoff from the Sacramento/San Joaquin
River watershed. I've read that 6 knots is typical. And here I am
trying to buck the current just as the tide is beginning to go out.
How's that for timing?
My solution: fire
up the motor. My little 3.0 HP semi-antique fired right up, and I was
moving again. Chalk off one more lesson learned in the school of San
Francisco Bay . . . remember: currents and tides, currents and tides!
Ahhh (A sigh of
relief) . . .
I made Ayala Cove a little over 30 minutes after starting up
the motor. As soon as I rounded Point Ione into the cove, I felt the
relief I was looking for to allow me to safely go forward to re-secure
the forestay. I was only out of the cockpit for a couple minutes to
effect the repair, then a quick once-over inspection of all else
before pointing the bow of Lazy Ka back out into Raccoon Strait and an
East-bound course; then South for the return trip to Alameda Island.
Back in the Strait
once more, it became immediately apparent that the motor was still
required, so Under outboard power, I continued on my way.
The only significant down-side that I have found to a
two-cycle motor is the noise level . . . they are loud when compared
to the four-cycle counterpart. So here I am, motoring along, making
excellent headway, generating more than my share of noise, when the
noise level increases by what seemed tenfold! Something had apparently
failed on my motor, and I'm in no position to stop to troubleshoot.
The clock is still running toward sunset, the fog is getting heavier,
and I have no interest in getting caught out on the bay after dark. I
motor on . . .
Out of the
frying pan, and into the fire!
It's back out into the bay from the shelter of Angel Island and
the full force of the 25-30 knot winds of the late after noon/early
evening. I shut down the outboard, and go under sail again. The time
is now closing on 5:00 PM; this means that is unlikely that I'm going
to make Grand Street before dark. I still have close to 12 miles to
cover, and the numbers just don't work for a landing before dark. Now
I will be happy to make the Estuary before sunset at 7:20 PM.
I've now added a
needed drill to my to-do list. In these winds I can't bring
myself to let go of the tiller to reef the main. This is a first for
me. I've never before felt the need to reef . . . I need some
practice on the reefing drill. One advantage to furlers is how quick
and easy it is to reef or douse the foresails with one hand on the
tiller. But I'm just not ready to bounce around uncontrollably in the
middle of San Francisco Bay to reef the main in this kind of wind.
I'll be quizzing the more experienced Potter Yachters on reefing
technique in the near future.
Mainsail only, pretty much on a broad reach, keeping the sheet in
hand, routinely adjusting to dump air in compensation for the frequent
gusts. Now it's been said that the Potter 15 is a dry boat . . . yeah,
most of the time! But here I am, flying along at what must be all that
Lazy Ka is capable of, Waves breaking across the bow, and others,
driven by the wind, breaking on the starboard rail. I'm sitting in a
puddle and am soaking wet from head to toe from the splash that comes
every 10 to 15 seconds. To make matters worse, the sun has dropped
behind the fogbank; the less that 60 degree water temperature is
reduced even more by the chilling effect of the winds . . . I am cold!
Pointing Lazy Ka
for the North-East corner of Treasure Island, I want to make it on a
direct shot as close to the Island as I can, to take advantage of the
relative shelter that will be offered by the island and it's
buildings. At the same time, I want to be far enough offshore to
maintain the good speed that I'm making against the approaching dark.
it happens. I hear a cracking sound and feel an unfamiliar looseness
in the tiller. A close inspection reveals a longitudinal crack along
one of the center laminations. Lateral pressure on the tiller causes
the crack to
up more. The constant forces of waves
and this skipper
seem to have presented more stress than the device could withstand. My
temporary fix is to tightly wrap the tiller, as
best I can, with
one of the heavy-duty bungee chords I keep stowed in the cockpit. I
augment the binding by trying to apply less force to the tiller, and a
prayer for good measure . . . The last thing I need now, is total
There isn't much
boat traffic out here . There hasn't been much since Raccoon Strait.
As I came out of the Strait I passed a dozen or so boats, all
grouped together, headed north toward San Rafael. Since then, I've
seen only two others between Angel Island and Yerba Buena. The absence
of traffic confirms my desire to get in before dark.
. . . And
I thought it couldn't get any worse . . .
In the shadow of Treasure Island I find winds in the 18-20 knot
range, and behind Yerba Buena Island, even less, 10-15 knots . . .
it's smooth sailing. as I turn into the Estuary the wind is at my
back; I set my new homemade ($25.00) whisker Pole, and begin my run
toward home. But a mile or so into the Estuary is a bend to starboard,
changing the relative wind direction. Down comes the Whisker Pole. Wit
slack on my Lapper, and gusty winds, the pin securing the furler
shakes loose leaving the sail flailing wildly. With some effort, I
release the halyard and drop the Lapper into the cabin. This flailing
of the Lapper has tangled sheets and sails, involving the jib
and main as well . . . It's a mess! And I'm in no mood to untangle it
all in the wind and cold. So it's back to the motor.
Good news, the
motor fired right up; bad news, the sound is defining! And I'm
embarrassed to be sharing all of this noise pollution to the relative
quiet of the estuary. I just want to make Grand Street, pull out, and
head for home, and my little motor is going the get the job done.
I'm at the Grand Street dock A few minutes after 8:00 PM, with
Lazy Ka loaded, rigged for travel, and on the road before 9:00. Before
10:00 I'm in the comfort of my living room with a relaxing glass of
wine in hand to end my most exciting day of sailing to date.
A Post Script
morning I awake with more sore muscles than I've felt in years. I
didn't realize what a workout I was getting while in the middle of it
all. I'm going to need a day or two to recover. As for Lazy Ka,
closer inspection of the motor, in the comfort of my garage, reveals
that it had blown the exhaust gasket . . . an easy and inexpensive
This was, without a
doubt, a day of sailing that I will likely have to go a long way to
better. The thrill of pushing my little Potter literally to the
breaking point, and knowing that I have developed the skills to deal
with just about anything that San Francisco Bay can throw my way
leaves me with a tremendous sense of accomplishment.
accomplishment for the day was the distance covered. I easily managed
something in excess of 35 miles for the day. Now, that feels good. I'd
like to try this one again in the near future.